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Greedy Lying Bastards (2012)
Take The Power Back
GREEDY LYING BASTARDS (dir. Craig Scott Rosebraugh) The first section of the documentary examines the 'real time' effects of global warming, and then shows how the efforts to suppress the scientific links between cancer and cigarette smoking by the tobacco lobbyists in the early 1960's are eerily similar to the current campaign to squelch the facts about human induced climate change.
The film then shows that there is overwhelming consensus within the scientific community that global warming is inextricably tied to the burning of fossil fuels, i.e. coal, gas, and oil. The 'anti-global warming' voice is shown to be a motley collection of public relations flacks (many without any background in science) funded by rich and powerful titans within the energy industry. After watching the film, it is impossible to give any credence whatsoever to the controversy of whether or not global warming exists, and clearly this is one more undeniable example of Big Business's 'War on Science'.
Fun Fact- The Koch Brothers have given over $67,042,064 to groups denying climate change science since 1997.
Shepard & Dark (2012)
You've Got A Friend
SHEPARD & DARK (dir. Treva Wurmfeld) For over forty years American playwright, actor, film director, and Beat Generation apologist, Sam Shepard has been close friends with Johnny Dark, a man who chose to live a solitary life far from the limelight. In fact, Johnny Dark now works as a minimum wage clerk at a Hispanic deli in the backwater village of Deming, New Mexico, but for a time during the 70's the two men were related by marriage when Sam Shepard wed the daughter of Johnny's wife, and they, and their children, lived together in a ramshackle 'Hippie- style' commune.
But the heart of this intriguing documentary concerns the thousands of letters, postcards, and photos that Johnny and Sam have archived which painstakingly chronicle their lasting relationship. I wish that the film had focused more on the content of these eloquently written letters, and less on the ultimately failed attempt to bring this appealing correspondence to an amenable publisher. Although the monetary implications of this venture did not end their rather unusual friendship, you can't help but sense that the financial aspects of this deal somehow tainted their relationship. Both men are truly magnetic and charismatic personalities, and to watch their interaction is a positive delight, and the film is a kind of a testament to 'male bonding' and the power of written correspondence over a lifetime. MUST SEE
An Innocent Man
THE HUNT (dir. Thomas Vinterberg) Few offenses are so horrific that even the accusation of wrongdoing can destroy your life, yet Danish superstar, Mads Mikkelsen, stars in a brutally dramatic film about just such a crime. Mikkelsen plays a popular and much beloved kindergarten teacher assistant who is wrongfully accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students. The film shows how the confused statements by a five year old girl (who happens to be the daughter of his best friend), start a diabolical chain of events that turn the entire town against him, and escalate into a contemporary witch hunt. Mads Mikkelsen delivers an Academy Award winning performance in a film that will have you squirming in your seat rooting for an innocent man. Nominated for Best Foreign Film in the 2014 Academy Awards. ABSOLUTE MUST SEE
La soga (2009)
LA SOGA (dir. Josh Crook) The film concerns government corruption in the Dominican Republic and Manny Perez plays Luisito (he also wrote the screenplay), the morally conflicted enforcer for a corrupt Dominican general who is illegally monitoring the island's criminal element. The central premise of the film is that it is easier and cheaper for US authorities to deport criminals back to the Dominican Republic rather than to try them in American courts, and this influx of criminality is threatening to destabilize the Dominican government. However, Luisito's boss gives the criminals an opportunity to buy back their freedom regardless of the ruthlessness of their crimes. Luisito's moral dilemma might be a bit cloying, but the action sequences shot in the barrios of Santiago are fairly riveting.
Garage Days (2002)
So You Want To Be A Rock'N' Roll Star
GARAGE DAYS (dir. Alex Proyas) A strange film because it's a rock'n'roll movie that does not embrace the clichéd rock'n'roll fairy tale, but aims for just the opposite. GARAGE DAYS is about learning to accept your limitations and struggling with something that is really important regardless of your degree of success. Set in Australia the film has a 'local' feel, although Alex Proyas, the director, makes the film as big in scope as a classic of the rock genre. The perennial romance of rock'n'roll is the belief that a small but influential voice can overcome overwhelming odds and attain massive popularity and success. But the message of GARAGE DAYS is that after all of their struggle, the band members don't come close to fulfilling their rock'n'roll fantasy, but are still satisfied with their lives.
LOVE IS THE DEVIL (dir. John Maybury) The film concerns the Irish born English figurative painter Francis Bacon, and focuses on his life in the early 1960's when he was one of the central figures in a group of dissipated and debauched intellectuals at the Colony Room, a private drinking club in London's Soho district. Bacon's portrait style during this period is reminiscent of the work of contemporary American artist, Ralph Steadman in that both artists render their subjects in a bloated or garishly distorted manner. And, John Maybury, the director of LOVE IS THE DEVIL conveys this aspect of Bacon's painting style by shooting parts of the film using curious time-lapsed techniques, odd camera angles, and blurred optical abnormalities that really highlight Francis Bacon's cracked artistic vision. Derek Jacobi is note perfect as the dissolute, alcoholic painter, and Daniel Craig is surprisingly convincing as Bacon's thuggish lover, George Dyer. And, Tilda Swinton is positively devastating as Muriel Belcher, the founder and proprietress of the Colony Room. MUST SEE
Ging bin (1996)
Your Cheatin' Heart
ALL OF A SUDDEN (dir. Herman Yau) Although the film delivers a fairly innovative storyline, the production values and stagecraft skills are abysmal. The film opens with a man drunk driving through a metropolitan area looking for women to pickup, and he rear-ends another automobile. Suddenly, and without warning, a naked woman falls from an upper floor of an adjacent apartment building and lands on the roof of his car. All of this occurs within the first five minutes of the movie. No one in this opening scene is important to the story except the naked and very dead woman. The plot becomes inexplicably convoluted and slightly far-fetched, but the film evolves into the story of a man who is seeking retaliation for his wife's infidelity. She (the naked woman) was having an affair with her boss, and her husband is looking for retribution. Unfortunately, the script is nearly unintelligible because the subtitles seem to be interpreted by someone with only a passing knowledge of the English language. These subtitles are ridiculously and absurdly inexact and provide an unintentional comedic subtext to the film. Also, the text is difficult to read, takes up far to much of the screen, and the Mandarin translation is presented first, and then the English . This might have been a passable 'Potboiler Noir', but the overall execution is just too clumsy and unconvincing to take the finished product very seriously.
Spirits In The Material World
RESOLUTION (dir. Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead) A man chains his drug addicted friend to a pipe in a remote cabin in a desperate attempt to get him to stop taking drugs. That in itself might make an interesting film, but in this case, it's only a means to an end. THE RESOLUTION is more about where the cabin is located and what nefarious or unseen forces are in play. Although it's ironic that nothing is actually 'resolved' as to who or what is responsible for the ominous and creepy trajectory of the film, the movie compels you to deal with the film's delightfully warped reality. The film leaves you with the unsettling knowledge that under the right circumstances, no one is really able to differentiate between a ghost, a spirit, an alien, or a time traveler with one hundred percent accuracy. RESOLUTION is a terrific, thought-provoking, low budget Horror/Thriller that is very much,'Worth A Look'.
At Any Price (2012)
AT ANY PRICE (dir. Ramin Bahrani) If the film had just developed a single tangent, such as the troubled relationship between a father and son without all the other thematic distractions, it might have worked. Dennis Quaid turns in an exceptional performance as a GMO mega-farmer whose family has owned the land for four generations, yet no one in his family seems the slightest bit interested in continuing in the business of farming. However, because so many story angles are opened up and explored, the film loses focus. There's the story of the two sons- one is off climbing mountains in South America while the other aspires to excel on the NASCAR circuit, and then there is the sub-plot of the father's questionable dealings with genetically modified crop seeds, his sexual infidelity with one of his old high school cheerleader pals (by the way, they don't appear to have attended high school within two decades of each other), and the 'professional' relationship with his youngest son's teen-aged girlfriend (possibly the brightest point of the film). And finally there's that unfortunate second degree homicide that pops up out of the blue. It seems that the intent was to produce a film where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, but AT ANY PRICE flounders and struggles with a handful of disparate elements that don't add up to much of anything except a credible performance by Dennis Quaid. As Archie Bell and The Drells used to say, 'Do The Tighten Up!'
SUGISBALL(Autumn Ball) (dir. Veiko Ounpuu) The film is a series of interconnected stories of disparate characters who live in a dreary housing complex in Tallinn, Estonia where the ugly environs amplify the emotional separation. The film's tone is one of deadpan 'Black Comedy' that communicates histrionic sadness and pent-up romantic longing that at times comes across as mildly amusing. One extremely funny segment (that had nothing to do with the movie) was where an overweight, assistant doorman impersonates Michael Jackson's music video,'Beat It'. This can only be seen to be believed and is nothing short of hysterical. Overall, the film provides very little resolution, but the film's attitude and spirit are somewhat reminiscent of Baltic directors Ingmar Bergman and Krzysztof Kieslowski.